Dunwoody school plan bites dust 

There will be no new school at the Marcus Jewish Community Center in Dunwoody. "This deal died," zoning attorney Kathy Zickert told the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners last week. "We are requesting withdrawal of the application," Zickert said, sparing the board a difficult and emotional decision pitting neighbor against neighbor.

The application in question was for a Special Land Use Permit to build a 50-classroom, 750-student school on the Community Center's 53 acres at Womack and Tilly Mill roads. The notion of another school in the area (Dunwoody High, Vermack Elementary and Georgia Perimeter College are each within rock throwing range) sparked fierce opposition from neighbors, including the Dunwoody Homeowners' Association. Too much traffic, they cried. And shared use of the property would have violated the county's own land use laws, argued Bob Lundsten of the DHA.

Zickert said it was the shared use question that killed the application. The Marcus Center did not want to hinder its ability to develop the property for other uses in the future.

But the religious nature of the school prompted legal questions beyond local land use. Arguing for the school last November, Zickert cited a little known federal law passed last August called the Religious Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. It says a local government cannot restrict development of land owned by a religious institution unless it can prove the development would impose a significant burden.

The DeKalb Commissioners had adopted the position that the Religious Land Use Act is unconstitutional, and they were prepared to go to court over it. That won't happen, at least not in this case.

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